Ironically, earthquakes were on the minds of architects at the 1956 convention, too. According to newspaper reports, speakers then suggested that seismologists in the future would be able to forecast earthquakes "as weathermen today forecast storms."
That prediction hasn't come true, but another one unfortunately has. One seismic expert told conventioneers 38 years ago that "we must expect a severe shock of great destructive potential at any time."
Quake fear was not why the group stayed away from Los Angeles so long, officials said. The organization repeatedly chose San Francisco when looking for a Western meeting site because, they said, it is more picturesque and urbane. But the prominence of Southern California architects such as Gehry, Michael Rotondi, Eric Owen Moss, Barton Myers, Jon Jerde and others, plus the construction boom here 10 years ago made Los Angeles a more compelling venue.
Another reason was the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, which had been inadequate for big meetings like the group's convention. The newly enlarged center opened last fall to acclaim from architecture critics. Further tying the building to this week's events, its executive architect, Ki Suh Park of Gruen Associates, heads the local committee planning the convention. Park, a Korean American who has been active in post-riot rebuilding efforts, will be given the national American Institute of Architects award that recognizes social responsibility.
"Despite the fact that we had lots of events that were adverse to our image, such as the earthquake, civil disturbances, fire and flood, this is still one of the most exciting cities in the country and the world. . . ," Park said. "This is a good time to look at what makes the city tick."
Museums and galleries around the city this month have architecture exhibits and symposiums linked to the convention. The Museum of Contemporary Art will showcase innovative city planning and design projects in "Urban Revisions: Current Projects for the Public Realm." The Japanese American National Museum has scheduled a show about Asian American architects and California architects working in Asia. A photography exhibit at the Los Angles Central Library celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Parkinson architecture firm, which designed City Hall and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park offers exhibits about Downtown before World War II and about inner-city neighborhoods today.